ECON 316 — Game Theory


[Spring 2019 Syllabus]

Game theory is the formal study of strategic interactions between rational agents. Game theory is one of the most useful and powerful theoretical innovations in 20^th^ century social science, and has been applied extensively to economics, political science, psychology, sociology, logic, computer science, animal behavior, and evolutionary biology. Twelve economists have won the Nobel Prize for research directly related to game theory (and arguably several more for concepts indirectly related). This is an economics course, so the majority of our context and applications will be in economic settings, though we will examine a much wider scope of strategic interactions than the “narrow” economic domain of firms and consumers.

Please don’t get the wrong idea – this course is not the theory of “games” in the colloquial sense (e.g. chess, poker, football, Fortnite, etc)! This course is not intended to make a you a better [insert sport, board game, video game] player (but it might be a second-order effect!). A “game” in game theory is defined according to certain technical criteria. Furthermore, formal game theory can be very mathematical. I will try to balance formal theory with interesting real world applications, sometimes including colloquial “games.”

Game theory is a direct extension of basic microeconomics, so this class assumes you have met the required prerequisite course(s) – ECON 206. My approach to game theory requires some math, but I will try to make it not exclusively about the math.

This course will be a hybrid of formal lecture, hands-on activities, and student presentations of scholarly articles, with exams and a writing writing assignment serving as the prime means of evaluation.

Upon completing this course, you will be able to:

  • Recognize different types of strategic interactions across different domains of life (e.g. economics, political science, biology, etc.)
  • Understand the common types of games: prisoners’ dilemma, stag hunt, battle of the sexes, chicken
  • Solve for equilibria of games in normal form and extended form
  • Understand and apply famous game theoretic concepts of Nash equilibrium (pure and mixed strategies), the role of information, sequencing, credible commitments, repetition, etc.
  • Become familiar with some of the economics (and other) literatures that use game theoretic tools


Lesson Slides Homework
1. Introduction to Game Theory
2. Sequential Games HW #1
3. Simultaneous Games I: Discrete Strategies HW #2
4. Simultaneous Games II: Continuous Strategies HW #3
5. Simultaneous Games III: Mixed Strategies HW #4
Midterm Exam (Solutions)
Using Game Theory in Research
6. Repeated games
7. Strategic Moves and Commitment HW #5
8. Imperfect and Asymmetric Information
9. Evolutionary Game Theory HW #6
10. Collective Action Problems
Final Exam